If you're undecided about hiring a professional editor before you self-publish, I strongly advise you to do so. My editor is Linda Wasserman of Pelican Press in Pensacola, Florida, USA. She strengthened my story so much. For instance, I never realized how many times I used passive voice, which resulted in weaker sentences.
She sent me two Word document versions of my edited novel. One has all her edits accepted and Track Changes turned off (so I could read her version without distractions). The other has no edits accepted and Track changes on (so I could see each edit and read her comments on the purpose of the edit). I am going through the second version and accepting or rejecting each edit myself. For the most part, I agree with her. Every now and then, I reject an edit. Below are five examples in the form of "Before and After " edit comparisons:
My original version:
Julian knew the candlelight was making his features ghoulish. It was darkening the hollows of his face, concealing his eyes and throwing his shadow up to the ceiling.
Julian knew the candlelight made his features ghoulish. It darkened the hollows of his face, concealed his eyes and threw his shadow up to the ceiling.
“This annual gala I throw every year, Holiday Lights."
Linda caught the redundancy. Her version:
“This annual gala, Holiday Lights.”
“Yes,” Julian said a little awkwardly, “I am sorry."
“Yes,” Julian said, disliking himself for feeling awkward. “I am sorry.”
Linda's embedded comment explained her edit as a suggestion: "I just threw the “disliking” in because it seemed to fit. What do you think?"
I disagreed with her edit on the grounds of Julian's personality. Julian doesn't dislike himself for feeling awkward. He likes himself all the way down to his rotten core.His apparent awkwardness is an affectation. However, considering the rest of the narrative as context, it no longer seemed necessary to explain that or even keep the word awkward, so I deleted it entirely to make this sentence:
“Yes,” Julian said, “I am sorry.”
Flat, golden ringlets parted at the center of her high waxy forehead, clinging to her tiny skull and spilling to her waist.
Flat, golden ringlets parted at the center of her high, waxy forehead. Clinging to her tiny skull, the curls spilled to her waist.
I rejected her edit because I like the flow of the original sentence and because when you take in someone's appearance, your vision flows from her head down, in one sweep.
Julian's nerves tightened until his long, white fingers became talons impaling the tapestry arms of his chair.
Julian's nerves tightened until his long, white fingers transformed into talons that impaled the tapestry arms of his chair.
Linda's comment explained her suggested change: "I just wanted to offer this as an option."
I had written that his "fingers became talons" as a metaphor, but I liked Linda's suggestion –especially in light of the fact that a few paragraphs down, Julian does transform physically into something monstrous. I accepted her edit.
To sum up, I recommend spending the money and time on collaborating with a professional editor before self-publishing your work. Each individual edit may not seem like a big deal, but together they add up. The result is a stronger story that is still true to your vision.